The sto­ry of Passover asks ques­tions that have res­onat­ed with gen­er­a­tions of peo­ple from all over the world. With this in mind, we asked ten writ­ers to share a book they would rec­om­mend read­ing over the hol­i­day. Touch­ing on themes of exile, mem­o­ry, social jus­tice, free­dom, and more, these sug­ges­tions will keep you booked for more than eight days (or sev­en, if you’re in Israel!).

Rachel Baren­baum, author, most recent­ly, of Atom­ic Anna

The Mar­riage of Oppo­sites by Alice Hoffman

The Mar­riage of Oppo­sites by Alice Hoff­man is a per­fect Passover book because it focus­es on a small Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty liv­ing in St. Thomas in the 1880s, a com­mu­ni­ty forced to flee dur­ing the Inqui­si­tion. A tour de force writ­ten with gor­geous lan­guage and pas­sion­ate prose, Hoffman’s book brings the char­ac­ters of Rachel and Frédérick to life and bril­liant­ly illu­mi­nates their love. Hoff­man fol­lows their jour­ney and their next gen­er­a­tion that includes their son, the now-famous painter Camille Pis­sar­ro. Based on real events and real peo­ple, I couldn’t put it down and rec­om­mend it all the time. It’s one of those books I nev­er want­ed to end.

B. A. Van Sise, author, most recent­ly, of Invit­ed to Life: Find­ing Hope after the Holocaust

I come from a mixed back­ground, but many of my ances­tors came from North African, Greek, and Ital­ian Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties – groups that are, per­haps, less­er known here in the US. I love Pesach: it tends to be the time of year when I find myself check­ing in with the ances­tors, and, in turn, check­ing in with myself. The fron­tiers between gen­er­a­tions all seem a lit­tle soft­er with the sum­mon­ing of springtime. 

Cook­ing alla Giu­dia: A Cel­e­bra­tion of the Jew­ish Food of Italy by Benedet­ta Jas­mine Guetta

So much of our mem­o­ry is tied to scent, and this year I’m think­ing a lot about Cook­ing alla Giu­dia: A Cel­e­bra­tion of the Jew­ish Food of Italy by Benedet­ta Jas­mine Guet­ta. A book that, hold­ing in my hands, I can smell, the pages turned by my grandmother’s hands as much as my own. It also dis­cuss­es – per­haps con­fronts is the bet­ter word, here – how this his­toric com­mu­ni­ty han­dles a flour­less hol­i­day in a nation built out of pasta.

Why Is This Night Dif­fer­ent from All Oth­er Nights?:​“The Four Ques­tions” Around the World by Ilana Kurshan

Also on my mind is Ilana Kurshan’s Why Is This Night Dif­fer­ent from All Oth­er Nights?:​“The Four Ques­tions” Around the World. Not exact­ly a children’s book but per­haps most ben­e­fi­cial for young read­ers, it brings the famous ques­tions into twen­ty-three dif­fer­ent lan­guages spo­ken now and his­tor­i­cal­ly by far-flung dias­poric com­mu­ni­ties: lots of places that are, per­haps, less famil­iar but whose fron­tiers of past and future are just as thin this time of year.

The Dance of the Demons by Esther Singer Kre­it­man, trans­lat­ed by Mau­rice Carr

I rec­om­mend two books trans­lat­ed from Yid­dish, The Dance of the Demons by Esther Singer Kre­it­man (trans­lat­ed by Mau­rice Carr) and Judith by Miri­am Karpilove (trans­lat­ed by Jes­si­ca Kirzane). Kre­it­man, the elder sis­ter of the famous Singer broth­ers, draws a por­trait of a girl dri­ven near­ly mad by her desire and inabil­i­ty to access the spir­i­tu­al edu­ca­tion her broth­er isn’t even inter­est­ed in receiving.

Judith by Miri­am Karpilove, trans­lat­ed by Jes­si­ca Kirzane

Karpilove’s hero­ine longs for rev­o­lu­tion but is let down by her rev­o­lu­tion­ary lover. Each yearns for intel­lec­tu­al free­dom in a high­ly gen­dered soci­ety. I love these por­traits of frus­trat­ed young women who deserved better.

I can’t think of a more per­fect book to read for Passover than the recent anthol­o­gy, edit­ed by Ash­er Mil­bauer and James Sut­ton, enti­tled Exile in Glob­al Lit­er­a­ture and Cul­ture: Homes Found and Lost. A wide range of authors address the mean­ing and expe­ri­ence of exile from per­son­al and schol­ar­ly per­spec­tives. Read­ers will be illu­mi­nat­ed about Jew­ish and clas­si­cal Roman notions of exile, as well as those of Shake­speare, James Joyce, and Elie Wiesel.

Chilean Jew­ish writer Mar­jorie Agosín dis­cuss­es the table­cloth of mem­o­ries in her fam­i­ly, and Cuban-Amer­i­can nov­el­ist Ana Menen­dez and poet Richard Blan­co address the strange expe­ri­ence of being chil­dren of exiles and grow­ing up with mirages of a lost homeland.

A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Fam­i­ly and Migra­tion in the 21st Cen­tu­ry by Jason Deparle

The Passover sto­ry helps me under­stand present-day sto­ries of migra­tion. One of the best books I’ve read on that theme is Jason DeParle’s, A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Fam­i­ly and Migra­tion in the 21st Cen­tu­ry. DePar­le met the Fil­ipino fam­i­ly at the cen­ter of the nar­ra­tive in 1987. Over decades, he fol­lowed their expe­ri­ences as they took jobs in Sau­di Ara­bia, UAE, and the Unit­ed States. By trac­ing this mas­sive glob­al phe­nom­e­non through inti­mate per­son­al sto­ries, he brings nuance and depth to a sub­ject that is in the news near­ly every day.

Helene Weck­er, author, most recent­ly, of The Hid­den Palace

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

What if your home­land van­ished so thor­ough­ly that no one could even say its name? In a mag­ic-infused world rem­i­nis­cent of Renais­sance Italy, a sor­cer­er king con­quers the land of Tigana, eras­ing its name and its his­to­ry in revenge for the death of his son. Twen­ty years lat­er, a band of exiles schemes to lift the curse. This 1990 nov­el by Cana­di­an Jew­ish author Guy Gavriel Kay was a for­ma­tive read for me, and has lost none of its own con­sid­er­able magic.

Moses in Sinai by Simone Zelitch

In con­sid­er­ing the most imag­i­na­tive and spir­i­tu­al­ly stir­ring exem­plars of con­tem­po­rary lit­er­ary midrash, Simone Zelitch’s remark­able nov­el Moses in Sinai always springs to mind. As she tells it, the inspi­ra­tion for the nov­el arose at her Jew­ish high school when a rab­bi warned us not to be like the infa­mous Korah who led a rebel­lion against Moses and was swal­lowed alive. Being an alien­at­ed sev­en­teen-year-old, I imme­di­ate­ly read and reread Korah’s sto­ry, as well as rab­binic com­men­tary.” Years lat­er that explo­ration led to the novelist’s stir­ring con­sid­er­a­tion of rebel­lion and dis­sent in the Jew­ish tra­di­tion. In her rich­ly psy­cho­log­i­cal retelling of Exo­dus, both Moses and those who are left uneasy by his unques­tion­ing obe­di­ence to a hid­den and inscrutable divin­i­ty are por­trayed with deep sym­pa­thy and acute moral imag­i­na­tion. At one point, a char­ac­ter pleads with Moses not to aban­don the egal­i­tar­i­an­ism of their desert wan­der­ings: Canaan means the end of every­thing. Once we have land we have owners…if we have Canaan we’ll have lords again. We’ll be like every­one else. We’ll have mas­ters and slaves. You don’t want that.”

One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude by Gabriel Gar­cia Marquez

This mag­is­te­r­i­al nov­el — I have read it twen­ty-sev­en times — is a bib­li­cal retelling of Latin Amer­i­ca. Its struc­ture is made of con­cen­tric cir­cles. At the cen­ter is a myth­i­cal town, Macon­do, on the Caribbean side of Colom­bia; and with­in it is a fam­i­ly, the Buendías, and a house, where love and soli­tude push peo­ple to the verge. I can’t think of a bet­ter book to reck­on with con­cepts such as exile, free­dom, mem­o­ry, and jus­tice. Plus, the Wan­der­ing Jew makes a cameo appearance.

Roots by Alex Haley

My fam­i­ly and I arrived in the US from the Sovi­et Union on Jan­u­ary 19, 1977. The fol­low­ing week, ABC aired the eight-episode minis­eries Roots. Six years lat­er, when on work-study at my school library, I found a copy of the nov­el that inspired the series. I hid it away and would sneak off to read it when I was sup­posed to be shelv­ing. Despite the sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences between my expe­ri­ence and that of Haley’s char­ac­ters, the themes of exile, per­se­cu­tion, fam­i­ly sep­a­ra­tion, escape, and free­dom res­onat­ed with me. It is strik­ing that Go Down Moses,” a spir­i­tu­al sung by enslaved per­sons, is a ref­er­ence to the Passover story.

Iddo Gefen, author, most recent­ly, of Jerusalem Beach

Who By Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai by Mat­ti Friedman

It seems that there is some­thing about the desert in the Sinai that makes nations and peo­ple redis­cov­er them­selves. Not only did the Exo­dus take place in the desert, but­Leonard Cohen’s jour­ney deep­er into him­self and his Jew­ish iden­ti­ty occurred there dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War. In this extra­or­di­nary book, Mat­ti Fried­man not only tells the sto­ry of one of the great­est musi­cians of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, but of a per­son who reshapes his past and future dur­ing a dif­fi­cult and com­plex sit­u­a­tion, like the peo­ple of Israel did dur­ing their forty-year walk in the desert.